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The way we practice dentistry is evolving, whether we like it or not. Just a few of the issues we must deal with are ever-increasing guidelines and regulations, countless insurance mandates, and watching advancing technology replace humans. How can we innovate so we aren't run out of business?
My organization, BDG Dental Services, has wrestled with these challenges. We found that the best way to not only survive but thrive is through an enterprise practice. We owe our continued growth to centralizing functions, cutting costs through economies of scale, multiplying efficiencies, and dividing jobs into skillsets that capitalize on individual strengths. At the foundation of our success is the belief that our main business is not dentistry, it's building our team members. They then create a prosperous organization by providing the best patient care. This is not a cliché. It's something we live every day!
I started BDG Dental Services in 2002, and it has since expanded to 23 locations. We aren't a corporate organization with private equity backing, so we don't have room for mistakes. It's taken me much trial and error to get where I am today. I'm not a financial genius and I don't have an MBA. I wasn't even a great student in college. Because I had some good luck when I started, I thought I knew all the answers. But I had a wake-up call when I plateaued at three offices, grossing plenty of revenue but not netting much. I had to overhaul my mindset. When I got past my shortsightedness and became willing to listen to others' advice, BDG's growth exploded and I started experiencing true success.
Are you ready to push beyond your plateaus and grow your practice into the multilocation organization of your dreams? Our mentors at Heartland Dental Care taught us the multilocation model, which traced where we'd been so we could envision where we wanted to go. Identifying where you are now can start you on the path to a successful multilocation organization later. Where do you fit?
1. Unconscious incompetence-You don't know how to do something and you don't recognize the deficit. Solo practitioners or those with a handful of offices might get stuck because things work "well enough." Your practice might be small enough that it allows you to stay on top of things despite some chaos. Many of us have a wake-up moment when business starts sliding, staff or patients start leaving, or the bottom line starts slipping. It's time to try something different.
2. Conscious incompetence-You don't understand how to do something but you recognize the deficit. This leads to new questions and an eagerness to learn. You become aware of your interdependence and your need for a support network. When I reached this point, I stopped being annoyed at the consultants who dropped in because I realized the practice could learn a lot from them. As a result, we gained invaluable help from organizations such as Heartland Dental Care, the Association of Dental Support Organizations, and Henry Schein Dentrix Enterprise. At this stage, you see results but you realize something is still missing.
3. Conscious competence-You understand how to do something; however, demonstrating it requires concentration. At this stage, you get past what you're doing to why it matters. New elements here are education and company culture. Set up an education department and count on having some unproductive time as you invest in your people. BDG Dental Services sponsors a basketball league, as well as an internal "university" to build leadership skills. This makes our team, and thus our organization, stronger. As you address the "why" behind your actions, it's critical to create a reputation for your organization. We want the reputation of BDG Dental Services to be that we build people, and we just happen to be dentists. When we made this paradigm shift, everything we did suddenly became more enjoyable. What you accomplish in this stage will lead you to a new passion for your work.
4. Unconscious competence-You have so much practice that your skills have become second nature. Not many people make it to this stage of mastery. For BDG Dental Services, our constant ideal is that things will become effortless as we create the necessary infrastructure, company culture, and standard operating procedures that will allow us to grow indefinitely. Revenue will naturally follow because it becomes a byproduct of doing the right thing.
People ask me what the secret is to a successful enterprise organization. To be honest, I think our organization is somewhere between the second and third stages in the model. We've had some victories, but there's a lot of room for improvement. Though some think this is strange, I believe that being a successful dentist is really only 20% about dentistry. The other 80% is comprised of leadership, business skills, and being humble enough to learn from your mistakes and ask for help. I have hope for a bright future for our organization, despite an uncertain industry, because our success is fortified every day by each team member in the organization. For me, this has really been the key.
Like you, I'm continually striving for the mastery of unconscious competence. I look forward to building our best multilocation practices together as we discuss more ideas in future articles.
David Ting, DMD, started practicing dentistry in Las Vegas in 2000 and established what is now BDG Dental Services in 2002. There are 23 BDG Dental Services locations in Nevada, California, and Arizona, with a team of 40 dentists and 250 employees. What drives Dr. Ting is "creating a better life for all," including patients, employees, and the community. Dr. Ting welcomes comments and questions and can be reached at [email protected].